Hospitals raise alarm over Pawlenty cuts

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August 31, 2009 // UPDATED 9:07 am - August 31, 2009
By: Linda Higgins
Linda Higgins
A newly formed legislative working group made up of hospitals, health care providers and legislators recently started meeting to come up with solutions for restoring nearly $400 million to the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program. Most of the funding for the program goes to local hospitals such as Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) and North Memorial Medical Center.  

GAMC is a state-funded program that was established by the Legislature in 1975. It currently provides health care more than 30,000 adults, the majority of whom face mental illness and chemical-dependency issues. The governor vetoed funding for GAMC, a cut that would have become effective in July of 2010. After the session ended, the governor unallotted another $15 million by moving the effective date up to March of next year.

I do not think the Governor realizes the impact this will have on HCMC and North Memorial. HCMC stands to lose more than $55.5 million and North Memorial will lose almost $12 million. We cannot underestimate the impact of these cuts, which could result in significant layoffs and a reduction in hospital services.

At the meeting held last week, the Minnesota Hospital Association and others commented that the overall loss of funding will be devastating to hospitals and local communities. They suggested that this loss of funding would be a severe blow to the services they provide and could force an overall restructuring of the services that can be expected from these facilities.

What the governor is proposing is another shift from state government to businesses and families with private health insurance. People in need will still go to emergency rooms, but now that cost will be shifted to struggling hospitals and those with private insurance.

I sincerely hope we can find a way to solve this problem. Not only will vulnerable people lose their coverage, but our hospitals will lose an important source of revenue for the services they provide and layoffs of employees at these facilities will add to the problem.  

Sen. Linda Higgins represents District 58, which includes neighborhoods in North Minneapolis and Downtown.